Often credited as the first minimalists, the Shakers and their furniture have inspired countless modernist and contemporary designers all over the world. But who are the Shakers, where did they live, and how did they develop such a restrained, timeless mode of design?

With Shaker communities confined to just a few sites in the United States, people rarely have the opportunity to experience iconic Shaker objects in person: ladder-back chairs, benches, cabinetry, wall pegs, quilts, tools, and more. Furnishing Utopia’s mission is to provide designers with direct exposure to original artifacts and demonstrate how the group’s ideas still prove influential beyond just aesthetics.

In collaboration with two preserved Shaker sites – Mt. Lebanon Shaker Museum in upstate New York and the Hancock Shaker Village in the Massachusetts Berkshires – Furnishing Utopia organized two week-long workshops giving international designers access to an extensive archive of objects and engaging them in a dialogue with Shaker museum curators. Following the workshop, the designers produced everyday pieces, from brooms to baskets, that translate the ingenuity and ethos of Shaker style into objects suited to contemporary life.